Dan's Reviews > Shoplifting from American Apparel

Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin
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's review
Feb 11, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 2012

as i see it, there are a few slightly contradictory ways to interpret this book...

one way would be to see it as some kind of updated, facebook-era existential absurdist tome - like kafka or beckett with text-messaging. or you can take the opposite approach, and see it as a twee, miranda july-ish attempt to capture the awkwardness and vulnerability of 20-something vernacular. or you could pull pack a bit, and look at it as a mostly formal exercise in the rhythms of conversational language, with description, emotion, atmosphere and context emptied out in favor of some sort of musical meter, a la kenneth goldsmith. finally, you can take the bait implied by the title, and applaud/condemn lin for capturing the fundamental vapidity of hipster culture. after all, it name-drops the holy trinity of hipster-hater-dom: american apparel, williamsburg and vice magazine.

it's probably a mixture of all of the above, i suppose. and i don't think it does any of the above particularly successfully. stylized nothingness is a well-worn approach to experimental art-making, and i'm not sure lin is really pushing the envelope by incorporating the language of cell phones and social networks. i'm also not exactly the right audience - i'm 35, i've never been all that impressed by existentialism, or "the new sincerity" for that matter, i don't hate hipsters, i don't think people 10 to 15 years younger than me are any more "empty" than i was back in the day and i've had enough life experiences to work out the aimless excesses of my own ennui.
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